The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they pick their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.

The subject of today’s The Nigerian Voter is Motunrayo*, a customer service executive in her late twenties, residing in Lagos, Nigeria. She told us about her bad experience collecting her Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) at the Eti-Osa local government ward and her expectations for the 2023 elections.

Is this your first time registering for your PVC?

No, it isn’t. I’ve had my PVC since I first registered in 2014. I know I had my voter’s card before the 2015 and 2019 elections.

Did you vote in the 2015 and 2019 elections?

I couldn’t vote in 2015 because I wasn’t in Uyo in Cross River state, where I first registered. However, I was back in Uyo in 2019, so I voted then. 

Who did you vote for in 2019, and why?

I voted for Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi as vice president. 

I voted for him then because I liked that Obi as his running mate. With him on the ballot, they seemed like the “lesser evil” out of all the candidates for me. Buhari was contesting for a second term, and comparing his military and democratic tenure combined, he didn’t make a good option for me as a president then. 

However, I had heard many things about Peter Obi and his experience with the economy and his tenure as Anambra State governor, and thus, I had hope in him to change the country.

With the PVC you did in 2022, was it a transfer or fresh registration?

I transferred online because I remember moving from Akwa-Ibom to Lagos state. I had to change the location. 

Can you remember your first PVC registration? How did it go?

I remember seeing a huge number of people at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office. I spent nearly two days collecting my PVC. The first day, I left out of frustration because they were not attending to people fast enough. The second time I ensured I stayed until evening to collect my card. 

I think the crowd was much because Akwa Ibom is a PDP state, and it is always more than enough sensitisation for people to vote. However, I only registered for my PVC because my dad literally chased me out of the house to do it, not because of any sensitisation. The experience wasn’t any different from now. 

Can you remember this 2015 PVC collection experience in detail?

I remember that at some point, they locked the gate because the crowd was so much. People that had connections to the INEC officials bribed their way through the gate. You could see a man and his entire family pass you by from behind and jump the queue, after waiting for hours. I remember coming as early as 6 am on the first day and still not being attended to at 1 pm. 

I couldn’t even get angry because there were others that had been there for 3 days. There was a lot of harassment from officials, as they would try to beat you if you came too close to the day. 

Funny enough, the INEC official that attended to me the next day was a really nice person. We even exchanged contacts and she assured me that she’d call when ready. 

But aside from her, others were just rude and were requesting tips. I wouldn’t have given them, even if I had the money. 

Did you have to do anything PVC related in 2019? 

No, I didn’t have to. I just followed my friends to do theirs, and the experience for them wasn’t any different. In fact, one of my friends was so tired that she said she’d go home. But thankfully, she finally got to do her PVC registration in 2022.

How would you describe your experience with PVC transfer and collection in 2022?

For the transfer of location, the process was easier because it was online. 

However, the collection was way more stressful because it was physical. I couldn’t believe that one still had to go through the same process in 2014 — queueing up for long hours and being harassed by security men. I was hoping the PVC collection would be easier for me, but it wasn’t. It turned out to be absolute hell. 

At first, I thought all would be well because I was tracking the crowd volume in my LGA ward from home through real-time tweets on Twitter. A man then announced that his LGA (Eti-Osa) didn’t have any crowd, and that spurred me on to go and get my PVC almost immediately. 

But to my surprise, there was a large crowd outside. We were then asked to write our names and polling unit codes on a sheet of paper and submit it. After writing, I couldn’t even find an official to submit to. They had this habit of going inside and staying in their offices for long hours before coming out. I don’t have an idea of what they were doing but when they eventually came out, it’d only be with 5-6 cards. People were angry and astonished at the slow rate at which the cards were shared. 

You’d expect that Eti-Osa, as a popular local government area, would be more efficient, but I only spotted 6 INEC officials that day in an entire local government—

Wait, just 6?!

Yes, only six people in an entire local government. I know I saw only 3 of them with official INEC cards, while the rest were probably volunteers or ad-hoc staff.

That’s crazy. What else happened? 

I know many people had left by late afternoon because of frustration with the slow rate of distribution of cards. But what was even more frustrating was the fact that they always seemed to call people that had already gone. Like, move on to the next batch already. 

At 2:30 pm, they announced that it was time for them to close, and everyone was pissed. I know a guy that has been there almost 9 times and his friend (who was also present) confirmed it. I couldn’t finish that day but I was able to collect mine at 10 am the next day with the help of an official. 

For some reason, there were quite a number of people whose details were omitted and were directed under a tree where the officials would attend to them. Up until the time I left, those officials never came out. I don’t know if they ever did. There was a lady that broke down and cried just because her details were omitted. There and then, I knew that Nigerians were really ready to vote this time. 

I can also remember the time they locked the gate on the first day after a long period of time. I remember people shouting and yelling, “Give us our cards.” There was a particular security official wearing a Tinubu-Shettima cap on his head (I believe he’s an All-Progressives Congress (APC) supporter). He stayed on the inside and was forcing people out of the gates and wasn’t very courteous. 

When people started to complain, he went inside, brought out some wires, and started beating people with them, from the inside. The officials on his side of the gate were trying to restrain him and managed to control him after some time. I was amazed that he had the guts to do such a thing in an INEC office. 

And he wasn’t the only one. With the amount of people wearing Tinubu merchandise, I had to start asking neighbors if I was truly in an INEC or APC office.

The Eti-Osa local government is highly disorganized and they need to do better. I hope people can still collect their cards because there were so many that were yet to be collected. 

So sorry you had to witness that. Would you say anything has changed about Nigeria’s electoral system from 2019 until now?

I’d say the only significant one is the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). I hope the Nigerian politicians will let this work. If BVAS is allowed, there would be a decrease in electoral violence like ballot box snatching and all. There’d be more chances of a free and fair election, like what happened in Osun State. 

I’d also say Peter Obi’s candidacy has changed the political atmosphere this season. Everyone is trying to act like an intellectual and showcase their plans. 

What would you say is your least favourite part of the electoral process? 

I hate the fact that they’ve to count the votes manually. I feel technology has come a long way for Nigeria to still use manual processes in vote collation or PVC registration. It should be very simple because most adults have their Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) and National Identification Numbers (NIN) which they can use to vote. I’d appreciate it if we could move to online voting in the coming years and make voting more seamless with BVN and NIN. 

Who do you want to vote for in 2023 and why? 

I am voting for Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) because he just seems like the only candidate without a lot of controversies. One of his rivals said he built a particular state. How can one person do that, please? It was the capital city of Nigeria for such a long time before it was changed, so how did you build it? There are so many issues going on with the APC candidate.

We also need to look at health as a factor for these candidates. Buhari has travelled out of the country so many times, he should be named the “Ajala of Africa”. We don’t need a repeat of that again. Healthwise, Tinubu is not sound enough. His health has deteriorated so he can’t make sensible statements. How would he represent us properly in global events? I feel he is an old man who needs to enjoy his old age and stop running for president. 

For Atiku, I only voted for Atiku because Obi was on the ticket. But the fact that he has now joined forces with Ifeanyi Okowa is horrible. That’s another disaster waiting to happen. Okowa is one of the worst governors Nigeria has ever had. With the amount of money Delta State gets monthly, it is supposed to be a destination spot for tourism. But it has now become nothing but an eyesore to look at. If you can’t manage a state properly, how would you be trusted to manage a nation?

With Atiku, he claims to be a unifier. This unifier meanwhile did a lot of fraudulent activities in Customs and illegally sold a lot of companies. And this was a Vice-President then, but how can we trust you with such a past? He definitely doesn’t get my vote for me. 

With Obi, I love the fact that he is passionate about the issues affecting Nigerians. I love his clean track record as Governor of Anambra state, with no bribery or embezzlement of funds whatsoever. Obi made sure he did a lot of work on the rural roads in Anambra and he rehabilitated and currently visits the hospitals for medical checkups. Obi represents the common man, and that’s why I am rooting for him. 

Do you know any candidates for the governorship or local government elections?

I’d say Bankole Wellington for House of Representatives for the PDP and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour for Lagos State governor in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Wait, no one from Labour Party?

Yes, to be honest. I’ve searched up on governorship, National Assembly and local government candidates from the party, and I don’t think they’ve so much of a strong chance to win this election. They don’t have much political work on their portfolio.

What are the top three issues you’d love Obi to fix if he is president?

Security is definitely foremost. I find it hard to travel because the roads are dangerous and flight tickets are expensive. This hurts because I’m someone that really loves to travel. 

The second is the high rate of unemployment. I graduated in 2015, and I had to stay a year without a job since it was hard to get a job in government parastatals. There should be more opportunities for job creation, and I’d like Obi to fix that. 

The third is the economy, especially with inflation. I’m so happy I’m a single woman without a family because only God knows how much I’d be paying for foodstuff then. 

Have you mobilised people to vote for the 2023 elections?

Yes, in my own small way. I called my cousins, who were at least 18 years old to vote and register for PVCs. I make noise about it all the time on social media. Even in my estate, I’ve earned the nickname of “Peter Obi” because there’s no conversation I’d be part of that I wouldn’t chip him in.  I always love to showcase my interest in politics and the 2023 elections wherever I go.


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